The smiling physician – A legend no more

Mohammad Hafizullah

“O soul, perfect peace, Return to your Lord well pleased (with Him), well-pleasing Him! Enter among my (honoured) servants Enter my paradise! (Quran 89: 28-30)
The Almighty elected to pluck the most-gentle, the most fragrant and the most vibrant flower of the medical community BUT in style – on a Friday, in the holy month of Ramzan and in the comfort of his home surrounded by his loved ones.

Most believe that his illness over the last few years must have washed away if he had any peccadillos. “He has all the qualities that I have, and many more that I don’t,” remarked Prof Nasir while introducing Prof Sirajuddin in a seminar. These comments disclosed as to why he has been regarded as a “gentleman extraordinaire”. His even-handed, balanced, and realistic approach won that coveted position for him in the world of medicine.

Prof Siraj was born to a literary family on August 13, 1935. His father was a well-respected dedicated teacher. He shared his distinctive genes with his brother, an icon in the legal world, Barrister Zahoor Ul Haq. He graduated in 1958 from King Edwards Medical College, Lahore with flying colors. He proceeded to the USA to join residency at New Jersey but later went to UK for further training in medicine.

There he earned membership and later fellowship of Royal Colleges of Physicians Glasgow and Edinburgh. On his return he joined Khyber Medical College and became Professor of Medicine and later became Principal of the college and dean of medical faculty, University of Peshawar. Prof Siraj was received in the medical community as a breath of fresh air. Most previous teachers would wear a stern look and act as ‘classic professors’. He, on the other hand, had a peculiar style – friendly, gracious and frank. Perennial smile was his hallmark and remained so till the end!
Prof Siraj had a passion for medical education. He introduced changes in the methods of teaching and evaluation as principal at KMC. He authored a book on medical education – ‘Quality Education’ and then revising it with a second edition.

He was the permanent chief guest on ‘Medical Education’ conferences organized in Khyber medical University and we would distribute his books to all graduates of MHPE.

Prof Siraj was an emblem of grace and elegance. One of the best aspects of his personality was his extreme self-control and patience. Whether God had bestowed him with these attributes, or he had acquired them through hard work and training, only He knows; but I had never seen him angry. Many patients preferred him because he had the patience to listen to their stories. In the class he could not be provoked by a senseless question or a silly answer. He was one of the most favorite examiners, as he would never create a false aura or pester poor candidates.

These satellites provide the desired earth coverage. Currently he is president and founder of Void Inc. technology established in 1997 in Japan. Yasir Siraj is a graduate of Agha Khan University and is an accomplished interventional cardiologist – well trained in advanced complex coronary procedures. He worked in Islamabad for a few years and earned laurels for himself. He is currently offering services at UW Health Northern Illinois Medical group at Rockford, Illinois. Omair Siraj, the youngest, had a brilliant academic career in the UK and USA. He is Chief Executive Officer and founder of Chestnut Health in Chicago providing high quality acute and post-acute care especially for homebound patients. His daughter Zermina and son-in-law, Owais – a cardiologist, and three sons had been hosting parents for long stints in Indianapolis with profound love, revere and care.

A year ago, the family suffered a severe setback as they lost their most affable and caring mother Rahat Siraj. She was glue of the family and had her own circle of friends and devoted fans. All together, they looked after the parents very well – setting a new exemplar for others to emulate. Blessed be the parents and the progeny.